VLADIVOSTOK, Russia – Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has canceled a plan to visit islands at the center of its territorial dispute with Japan, leaving the Kamchatka region for Moscow, an aide to a senior official in the Russian Far East said Thursday.
Medvedev reportedly said during a visit to the Russian Far East on Wednesday that he would soon visit the Russian-held islands off Hokkaido. The isles are called the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.
Medvedev’s remarks were taken by many to mean that foul weather forced him to cancel but he is determined to go the next chance he gets.
The president is expected to go to Northeast Asia in mid-November to attend an annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Yokohama.
Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara had warned that a visit by Medvedev to the islands would seriously harm bilateral ties. The president would have been the first Russian leader to visit any of the islands since the Soviet era.
In Tokyo, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs Yutaka Banno said at a news conference the government understands that Medvedev on Wednesday did not refer to a specific plan to visit the disputed island. He added that Tokyo will continue to convey to Moscow its concerns about a potential visit to the area by the Russian president.
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